Hello to all you inquiring minds, wondering about the mystery of childbirth. My name is Krista, and because I've given birth vaginally, I decided to answer some questions our readers had about it — from my own, personal experience.
1. Q: "Does it actually feel like you're pooping when you're pushing the baby out? Do you indeed poop?" —vanessam94
A: Pushing feels like you have to take the most massive dump of your life. It feels like you ate 25 bean burritos and they need to be released from you body. All I remember is I kept yelling “Am I pooping?” every time I pushed because I couldn't tell or see anything down there. Finally, the doctor said something like, "Just a little honey, but everyone does..." and then I saw the nurse wiping me. Oh, and I looked over and saw my husband pull his shirt over his nose because apparently it smelled bad — which is weird because my poop usually smells good. So yes, most people poop and the doctors will act like it’s no big deal. They wipe you like a lil' baby and that’s when things really come full circle.
2. Q: "What do contractions feel like?" —pipermurreyj
A: I sounded like a dying animal every time I had a contraction. They're awful. It’s one of those things you try to block out of your memory. Imagine someone twisting and tightening your insides around a razor blade so badly that you can’t stand up straight. That’s what contractions felt like to me. Some people even get them in their back, too. Contractions are period pain on an entirely different level. I remember the nurses kept asking me basic questions and I couldn’t even answer them because the pain was so intense — I couldn’t think straight. So pro tip: Make sure whoever is in the room with you can answer things about you if needed, like what you’re allergic to, what medications you’re on, why you smell so funky, you know basic stuff like that.
3. Q: "How did you feel with a bunch of people staring at your vagina?!" —claire127
A: Awkwarddddd. But I just had to remind myself that they were professionals who see thousands of ugly vaginas just like mine every day. In a pain-induced decision, I actually let some med students come in and watch me push my son out. I’ll never forget the look on all four of their faces. I’m pretty sure I scared at least one of them out of becoming a delivery doctor that day. So, I’ve done my good deed in that department.
THIS IS NOT ME. IT IS A CREEPY STOCK IMAGE THAT CAME UP WHEN I TYPED IN "VAGINAL CHILDBIRTH."
4. Q: "What does it feel like to get an epidural? I’ve seen videos of moms with epidurals still crying out while giving birth, but I thought the medicine was supposed to eliminate pain?" —singactjoke
A: I was in so much pain while they were administering my epidural that I didn't even feel it. That's right: The pain of labor was so intense that I couldn't even feel the LONG ASS NEEDLE go directly into my spine. (The average epidural needle is eight centimeters — or over three inches — long.) And, after it kicked in, OMG it was life-changing. Full disclosure, though, you are numb from basically your belly button down. So like, you can't stand or walk until it wears off.
As far as women crying out after an epidural goes...I think it's kind of a natural thing that happens when you are pushing so hard. You can't feel the contractions, but you can feel this awful sensation that you need to push and you have to keep pushing as hard as you can to get the head out. I think it is more of an "I'm pushing so hard I need to yell" type of thing. And the people who don't have the epidural, that's just sheer pain. Bless them.
5. Q: "I’ve heard that they cut the part between the vaginal opening and butthole. Does that hurt? It sounds really painful. Also, did you tear? Does it hurt when they sew you back?" —sopphhiiiaaa
A: The "cut" is called an episiotomy — where the doctor makes a surgical incision on the perineum and the posterior vaginal wall supposedly to assist during delivery — and THANK GOD it is not a routine practice today. So in my experience, I did not have an episiotomy. However, I did tear pushing my son out and had to be stitched up. 😭 And, I tore HORIZONTALLY, like, to the side. I hate thinking about it, but I got through it. Anyway, I am pretty sure physicians administer local anesthesia while they are stitching you up, but, because I had an epidural, I was already numb and could not feel it. The pain and soreness associated with the stitches comes after the epidural has worn off, unfortunately. (Ice packs to the vag helped the best with this pain.)
HERE'S ANOTHER STOCK IMAGE. TAKE A BREAK IF YOU NEED TO.
6. "What about postpartum depression? I know it’s fairly common, but I already deal with a lot of depression and anxiety in my life and am scared that’s something I will face. I’m nowhere near ready to have a baby, but the thought of feeling so depressed and detached after bringing a life into this world is terrifying." —alexish40fba31ea
A: Postpartum depression is a legit — and very real — concern. Luckily, people are becoming more open about it, allowing moms who experience it to connect and feel less alone. In the US alone, 70% to 80% of people suffer from sadness after childbirth and many of them develop postpartum depression. While I did not have clinical postpartum depression, I did have what doctors called "the baby blues" — which, for me, was a lot of anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. I ended up going on antidepressants, and I was so ashamed that I didn't tell anyone. But, I wish I would have been more open because I know now that so many other moms go through it. Also, if you think about it, your hormones are out of whack from being pregnant and they are trying to balance themselves back out — all while you are running on no sleep and caring for an infant! I know it sounds scary, but I feel like women can take comfort in knowing that there are resources out there to help.
7. Q" "What does your stomach feel like after giving birth? Is it hard or like jelly?" —1988
A: Jelly for sure. I remember slapping it and seeing it ripple, just like if you slapped JELL-O. I know, it sucks. Anyways, there's just a lot of excess skin because it gets stretched out so much. Then, when you push down on your stomach, it feels like you have no organs. I will say that while my stomach skin is still more loose, it did somewhat shrink back, so I don't have a ton of skin hanging. If I had more kids I bet I would, though!
8. Q: "Were there any surprises during or after childbirth?" – Anonymous
A: Yes. In the middle of labor, my son's heart rate dropped and they wheeled me away for an emergency C-section. That’s the thing about labor — don’t have a perfect plan because there’s a high probability it won’t go the way you envisioned. You have to trust that the doctors are doing what is best for you and your baby. Anyway, while they were prepping me for a C-section, my son’s heart rate started going back up and — long story short — they brought me back to my old room to delivery vaginally. It was an emotional roller coaster.
After I delivered my son, I had to deliver the placenta. I did not know this. The nurse pushes on your stomach to get it to come out and it actually hurt pretty bad for me...like intense pressure. Luckily, it only takes about ten minutes. If you're brave enough, ask to see it after it comes out. It looks like a raw pot roast.
9. Q: "When was the last time you had sex before having the baby? What about after? Was it the same?" – Anonymous
A: Technically this isn’t a question about “birth” specifically, but I had a lot of sex questions, so I will talk about my sex life for the betterment of women and moms-to-be everywhere! The night I went into labor, I remember begging my husband to have sex with me. It was awful for both of us and it’s a miracle I didn’t fart during it because I was real gassy that night, lol. But, I was overdue, I had been sleeping on a recliner for two weeks, and I was desperate to do anything to get my son out. A couple hours after we had sex, I went into labor. This was probably coincidental and not because of the sex, and obviously it's not something I am recommending because you should always consult your doctor first!
As far as sex afterward... Well, it was a scary moment in time for my vagina – she had been through hell and back, and I was not about to force her to do anything she wasn’t ready for. My stitches dissolved after about two to three weeks and then after about a month, I was "cleared" by my OB-GYN for intercourse. However, I was still terrified, so we waited like six weeks. We used a lot of lube and, to my surprise, it honestly felt exactly like it did before I even got pregnant. And maybe I had one too many glasses of wine in preparation beforehand, but I swear I felt tighter! 😜
10. Q: "I just wanna know how the heck does that baby come out of that teeny tiny hole? Like, I’m 20 and I still don’t know how it works." —alisiakrieg
A: It's still a freaking mystery to me! All I know is, your cervix slowly starts expanding until it reaches 10 centimeters wide — and a lot of times it is already dilated a bit before you even go into labor. The pic below is a scary, but real reference.
11. Q: "At any point during your labor or delivery, did you feel like you weren't safe?" —sanbosmom
A: I never felt like I wasn't safe. I had doctors and nurses constantly monitoring me and my baby. Even though there were moments where I felt unsure of what was going on, I always felt like they were doing everything in their power to make sure my labor and delivery went as smoothly as possible. I think this is why it's so important to find an OBGYN you can trust — and meet their backup! My OB was actually off when I was in labor, so the doctor on call delivered my baby. I wish I would have met her beforehand, but luckily she made me feel super comfortable.
12. Q: "How many people were allowed in the room?" —neajess
A: I had my mom and my now-husband in the room with me, and I don't think I would want to have more than that. I had one person at each side and it was perfect. I think the amount of people you can have depends on the hospital — and if you are in a birthing center vs. a hospital setting. IMO, I feel like if you have four or more people, it might get too chaotic. (Remember you're in there for a long time, so don't have anyone in the room who might eventually annoy you, LOL). Also, you should not feel guilty about who you do or don't want in the room with you. This is YOUR birthing experience and you're allowed to only have the people you want in there.
OK. THIS IS REALLY ME.
13. Q: "What did you bring to the hospital?" —neajess
A: I brought a couple different-sized baby outfits because I didn't know exactly how big my son was going to be. I brought a squirt bottle that helped when I got hot during labor, a robe, my own pillow (this was a HUGE help), tons of pads, necessities (shampoo, deodorant, etc.), and baby diapers/wipes. The hospital has pretty much everything you need as far as the baby goes, so my advice would be to bring stuff you want to make you feel more comfortable. One thing I did not bring that I wish I did was birthing underwear! I had to use the disposable mesh panties and they actually sell birthing underwear with an area for an ice pack which is ideal for women who give birth vaginally.
14. Q: "What does the hospital give you to wear after stitching you up?"
A: You get mesh panties. They are super thin, but very stretchy. You also get pads the size of an adult man’s foot, along with an ice pack to stick on your hoo ha for relief. If you need to walk, you waddle around like a duck because of all this. That is why I wore a robe. I couldn't fit pants over it.
THIS IS ME WEARING HOSPITAL POSTPARTUM PANTIES. MY MOM IS A NURSE AND SHE GAVE SOME TO ME AS A JOKE RECENTLY.
15. Q: "The biggest thing I’m scared about is all the tubes and not being able to be comfortable with the epidural and catheter. How uncomfortable was it in terms of machines you were connected to?" —francescat414
A: No lie, it's going to be uncomfortable. The epidural is quick, and as I said before, you likely won't feel it. A lot of people are scared about the pain of the epidural, but the reality is that the contractions are what really hurt — and you can't escape them! I never had a catheter, but I can only imagine how uncomfortable that would be. The IV on the top of my hand was the most painful. I could feel the needle kind of roll over my bones every time I moved my hand. You're hooked up to a lot of different things, so my best advice is to bring anything to help you feel a little more comfortable.
16. Q: "How did you find it best to deal with pain during labor? I’m a first-time mom and am *hoping* to forgo the epidural if I can. I am curious as to what worked or didn’t work?" —chessaf
A: Congrats! And kudos to you for wanting to forgo the epidural! I bow to you! I initially had intentions of not getting an epidural, but that idea went out the window during labor, lol. I actually endured labor for a very long time before getting the epidural (I had the epidural after about six hours of labor). Honestly, the most helpful thing is breathing. I know it sounds basic, but it truly was what helped me the most. A cool rag on your forehead feels nice, but focusing on a point in the room and breathing is really the most beneficial thing, in my experience.
17. Q: "Should I be scared of giving birth?" —lizzifer
A: Although I may have revealed a lot of scary information just now, do not be scared of giving birth! The female body is an amazing machine and after it all, you'll feel like a badass because you brought another human being into this world. Like, that is a huge accomplishment to be proud of. It’s probably what I’m most proud of.